Microsoft nightmares and Linux dreams

Ever since I got this laptop (a lovely light, if a bit too big, Acer 4810T) I have struggled with the operating system. Microsoft Vista is a nightmare made real. However, until last week my gripes and Vista’s delays were never quite enough to drive me to attempt to install a new OS with which I have no experience. (I have two decades of extensive Windows use behind me, and another few years of MS OSes before that.) Last week however, Windows Explorer threw a tantrum, if I tried to send a file to the recycle bin, or to change its name the dialog box would remain open until either I rebooted the system, or Windows Explorer crashed and was restarted by the system – which happened happily often.

For the last few days I have been doing half my work running UberStudent, a Linux (Debian, Ubuntu variant) OS designed for students. I have been suing it from a USB stick, to test, but it has been a dream. Out of the box it supports Firefox with Zotero, Open Office (or if I want to get really sensible in my writing – i.e. uses styles properly and write by function more than appearance – LyX which also integrates with Zotero) and loads of other nice programs and features. It took minutes to add my other Firefox add-ons, and not long to change the look, and put the bars on the sides of my widescreen (thus giving me effectively more vertical space – widescreens are a gift to laptop designers, but a pain for users).

Three things I need were missing:

  1. a good audio editor (I did not need to download drivers for my external soundcard/preamp like I had to in Windows, in Linux such extras seem to work straight out of the box :)
  2. a way to sync my phone diary with a calendar program on the laptop
  3. Dropbox which I can’t now live without, syncing my using files to the cloud is just SO handy and such an easy backup scheme (admission of interest: this Dropbox link will get both and installing the free program will get both of us a bonus of extra storage space)
  4. BibleWorks (yes, I must try one or more of the Linux free Bible programs, but I do appreciate having the Westminster Morph Hebrew text available)

It took a wee while to learn how to get new programs in Linux, but soon I had Audacity installed, and discovered that the OS came with a utility that is on the whole better than Nokia’s phone syncing program (though I still have to discover how to get the diary syncing with Thunderbird). Dropbox also installed easily, the only tricky bit is that the folder needs a different name in Linux and in MS Vista (but that will cease being a problem once I give Vista the heave ;)  That just leaves BibleWorks, and I’m told that’s a simple install under Wine (which again comes preloaded).

I expect that with a couple of hours more playing I’ll happily be dual booting, and probably only seldom returning to the sad difficult and frustrating world of Microsoft.

4 comments on “Microsoft nightmares and Linux dreams

  1. Stephen

    What about VirtualBox? Free PC emulator developed by Sun.

    Also, I think VMWare and Parallels make commercial equivalents. I have Parallels installed on my Mac and it runs really well.

  2. Bob MacDonald

    Vista was a disasta – but Windows 7 is quite good. We spend so much time setting up and configuring – I did next to zero setup for my netbook with Windows 7. All our staff are getting converted from XP to Windows 7 – the developers are very happy with it.

  3. Ishmael

    The true Linux nightmare is that a box will appear in the local computer store labelled “Microsoft Linux”.


    I have to agree with Bob that Vista was a bloated disaster but Windows 7 is a move in the right direction. However, one of the great things about Open Source is that you do have choices — if Linux works for you, then go with it!

  4. tim

    At the moment this distro is working fine, more or less straight out of the “box”, with far far less installing of programs and tweaking of OS than I am used to, even in XP. I’m a minimalist in terms of what I want the OS to do for me, and I’m enjoying having several of the main programs already built in. Able to start work almost without having to install anything. BibleWorks is the main thing, and sorting the diary another (I’m nervous of the diary sync because that has been such a painful experience in MS OSes since my last Palm died.)